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2004: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

By THE PWINSIDER.COM STAFF on 2005-01-03 09:00:00
JUNE

This was not a good sign for the future. World Wrestling Entertainment released the buyrate for the Judgment Day 2004 PPV as part of information released to WWE stockholders.  The buyrate for the PPV, headlined by Eddie Guerrero defending the WWE championship against John Bradshaw Layfield was ~200,000 buys. That would be much lower than the 2003 PPV buyrate, which was ~300,000 and the 2002 number of ~375,000. Obviously this is a strong sign of the current state of the Smackdown brand, which Jim Ross termed as in a "transitional period" during an appearance on the WWE.com Byte This Internet show. The buyrate is the lowest for any WWE live PPV event since February 2001.

Sometimes you spend years trying to work your way up (Simon Dean, Eugene), and sometimes, this happens.  WWE signed two new wrestlers to developmental deals, Hardkore Kidd Aaron Aguilera and Gene Snitsky.  In the case of Aguilera, this was his second time with a WWE developmental deal, as he had been signed to one in 2001, but was let go when WWE had an influx of talent from WCW and ECW shutting down.  Within a few months, Snitsky would be on Raw and Aguilera, as Jesus, would be on Smackdown. 

Guess she didn't want to tryout to be a cheerleader (that is, if Brock had gotten on a team).  Sable returned to WWE television for the first time since significant other Brock Lesnar left the company. Reportedly, Sable mostly kept to herself at the show and was professional and cordial to everyone. When she did hang out with people, she spent time with Dawn Marie and was also seen talking to Heyman, who is a close friend of Lesnar’s.  

Lying about the Make-A-Wish Foundation is low class, no matter who you are. In the May 20th edition of his live internet journal, former WWE star Zach Gowen notes that he was advised to retire by his doctor due to two slipped discs in his lower back, and a disc problem in his neck. Gowen said he was planning to cut back his ring schedule. Zach also cleared the air on the longtime story that a visit from Hulk Hogan (set up by Make-A-Wish Foundation) inspired him to become a professional wrestler as he writes, "It's time to make a confession, to come clean if you will. Since I've debuted in TNA, the story people were told is that Hulk Hogan visited me when I had cancer. On my dying bed, the Immortal Hulk Hogan gave me the strength to carry on. Well, thats bulls**t. I made it up 'cos it sounded like a great story, and it was. It's funny because my fictional story actually led to my first storyline in the WWE with the whole Mr. America angle. Suckers. But I digress..."

I'm surprised they didn't ask the fans to sign contracts agreeing not to talk about the show as they left.  TNA held their first Impact taping in Orlando, Florida at Universal Studios.  The setup included separate entrances for the babyfaces and the heels and a six-sided ring.  Before the taping, an emcee being used to warm up the fans in attendance is currently explaining that the fans should "cheer the babyfaces and boo the heels." Yes, they used that terminology.  During the taping, a NWA:TNA representative approached PWInsider.com reader David Williams and questioned him as to why he was using his cell phone. When Williams told the staffer that he was telling someone the results of the show, he was told to shut his phone off or he would be ejected from the taping. When Williams questioned the staffer, who would not identify himself but was involved with leading crowd cheers during the Impact! taping, Williams was told, "We don't want the results out before it airs on TV." Once the taping ended, Williams immediately called and provided the results of the taping. 

There better not be buffering problems for this much.  WWE upped the price of their PPV webcasts, starting with Badd Blood, to $34.95, which is the same price most cable companies were charging. Since there is no middleman taking 60% of the gross, as there is with cable PPV buys, WWE does not need to charge so much for the online version of the show, but obviously was looking to take in more profits.  To their credit, WWE started adding more "bonus matches" from their archives to fans who ordered the webcasts, allowing them to watch the bouts for up to a month. 

A story that still has not reached a conclusion. Kurt Angle updated fans on his health on June 9th while appearing in New York City at an autograph signing at the Herald Square GNC store. Angle has been out of the ring since Wrestlemania XX, where he worked with tingling sensations in his hand and neck issues that weren't made public until after his headline match against WWE champion Eddie Guerrero. When asked about wrestling, Angle said he would be returning to the ring "in a few months." When asked about having neck surgery again, Angle said that he wouldn't be having surgery.

That was a stupid thing to do. On Saturday June 5th in Munich, Germany, John Bradshaw Layfield did some of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi mannerisms in an extremely misguided attempt to get heel heat for his match against Eddie Guerrero at the building. A number of people in WWE felt that JBL totally crossed the bounds of decency and good taste, even by wrestling standards, with his action. A fan got mad about it and wanted to attack JBL for his actions, and was thrown out of the building by security. The Nazi salute is strictly prohibited in Germany, even foreigners can be punished by German law for such activities (although Bradshaw had apparently used the tactic at least once before).

WWE released the following statement on the morning of June 8th: "WWE and John Layfield deeply regret Mr. Layfield's actions in the ring at our event in Munich, and apologize if it has offended or upset our fans. Mr. Layfield has been reprimanded for his actions." WWE later pulled down their apology.

CNBC severed its relationship with John Layfield on June 8th, releasing the following statment: "CNBC has terminated its relationship with John "Bradshaw" Layfield following his conduct this past weekend in a wrestling match. We find his behavior to be offensive, inappropriate and not befitting anyone associated with our network."  

Not a happy woman at all. Former WWE developmental talent Bobbi Billard posted in her online journal regarding her WWE release and apparent circumstances that occurred with WWE Divas Ivory and Jacqueline while down there. Billiard alleged that she suffered verbal abuse at the hands of Ivory and was physically manhandled by Jacqueline in training, suffering injuries that eventually led to her release. Billiard alleges that other women who were released by the company recently had to deal with similar instances.

This wouldn't last. WWE officials were very high on Mordecai and felt he was working very hard to earn his push. He was said to be a good learner and a hard worker and management was very happy with him, and plans were to give him a major run with the Undertaker.

Guess he just wanted some attention.  The Ultimate Warrior posted a message on his website, ripping on Jimmy Hart and NWATNA for starting rumors that he was calling them to look for work. Only problem is, there were no rumors. Apparently Hart mentioned, in an offhand way, that "even Warrior wants to work here" on a radio show when discussing TNA.  It was also more than a little suspect that Warrior would choose to pick that time, in the midst of NWATNA debuting their IMPACT! show and working to get more national attention, to make such a statement.

Maybe they should have promised a Smashing Pumpkins reunion as well.  Word came out that H2wrestling head Court Bauer had been in discussions with former Smashing Pumpkins singer (and big wrestling fan) Billy Corgan, about investing in a new promotion.  Of course, WGO came along and funded H2wrestling, but there was talk that Corgan would eventually make an appearance at an H2wrestling show.  Well, that is, if they ever actually ran a show.

Sometimes a wrestler is better off in the "where are they now" file. On June 10th, Former professional wrestler Richard "Dirty Dick" Van Slater waas been sentenced to a year of house arrest followed by two year's probation for stabbing his former girlfriend. Van Slater was sentenced Tuesday in Pinellas Circuit Court after pleading no contest to one count of aggravated battery in the December stabbing. Besides the house arrest and probation, Slater was ordered to stay away from the victim and pay restitution, fines, and investigative and court costs of more than $1,800. Slater, 52, was arrested Dec. 27 after he stabbed Theresa Marie Halbert with an 8-inch butcher knife and "watched her bleed" in her home, according to the arrest report from 2003. Prosecutors charged him with aggravated battery. Slater was a professional wrestler who competed mainly in the Southeast for 20 years, using the names "Dirty Dick" and "Mr. Unpredictable." He retired from wrestling in 1996.  

Being let go probably killed his chance of winning Comeback Of The Year. After missing two house shows without calling WWE management (forcing his son to wrestle Spike Dudley in his place), Chavo "Classic" Guerrero Sr. was given his notice by WWE when he arrived at the Smackdown taping in Chicago. Reportedly, he didn't try to make any excuses for himself as to why he missed the shows and accepted his firing. He then did the right thing for business and dropped the Cruiserweight Title to Rey Mysterio Jr. at the Smackdown taping. He simply blew the shows off and was fired because of it. 

No more wearing those old comfy jeans with the holes in them. WWE implemented a new dress code for the wrestlers, so the workers all showed up to the house shows in dress shirts and slacks for the guys and in more "upscale" outfits for the gals. That dress was traditional for the TV tapings and PPVs, but the dress code for house shows was more of a laid back, casual feel. That is no longer the case. The wrestlers, for the most part, understood that the company wants everyone to look their best while in public.

Sometimes the good news gets overlooked. WWE.com announced that Al Snow, Victoria, Ivory, Lilian Garcia, A-Train, Eugene, Chuck Palumbo, Nidia, Val Venis, Garrison Cade, Stevie Richards, Kane, Rob Conway, Tyson Tomko, Sylvain Grenier, Edge, Molly Holly, Hurricane, Rosey, Batista, Matt Hardy and Lita all took part in the "Donna's Ride" cancer charity event named after Snow's late sister n Ohio, The Raw crew raised over $15,000 for charity. 

Tell us how you really feel, Ric.  Ric Flair's long awaited autobiography "To Be The Man" was released, and immediately became the talk of the wrestling industry.  A sampling of quotes from the book: 

"I had a thousand reasons for never punching out Eric Bischoff in WCW. He was an executive. I had dragged my family through one lawsuit, and didn’t want to get caught up in another – particularly one I would lose. But, when I was alone, I’d think, Why didn’t you just beat the sh-t out of him? And I blamed myself for never doing it." - Ric Flair on Eric Bischoff, To Be The Man

"Bret never regained the fame he’d had in the World Wrestling Federation. Part of it had to do with terrible booking, the other part with Bret’s own deficiencies. What unnerved me the most was the way he used his brother’s death. Through his column in the Calgary Sun, Bret relentlessly bashed Vince McMahon. I sympathize with the emotion – and even the anger – he felt over losing a brother, but I lost respect for him when he made the case into a public spectacle. Why didn’t he take the matter up privately with Vince? It seemed to me that Bret cared more about getting "screwed" in Montreal than he did about Owen’s death, and he used his brother’s death to grind his ax with Vince" - Flair on Bret Hart

"Jim Herd was an idiot. This is not defamation. I’m just telling you history. The man had no right to be anywhere near a wrestling company." - Flair on former WCW executive Jim Herd, the man who fired him in 1991.

"This isn’t kind to say, but fans didn’t care about Randy as much once Elizabeth was no longer part of the package. The company tried reversing this; they gave Randy the "Macho Midget," and made Randy a color commentator like Bobby Heenan and Jesse "The Body" Ventura. But the departure of Elizabeth had taken away some of his edge as a performer. It’s another reason why I don’t consider Savage great; he just couldn’t carry it on his own." - Flair on Randy Savage, who he wrestled at Wrestlemania VIII

"In 1999, four months after being released from WCW, The Renegade shot himself to death in his kitchen in Marietta, Georgia. The guy obviously had other problems, so I’d never blame Hogan for the suicide. But I do blame both Hogan and Bischoff for inflating the kid’s ego and giving him the impression that he was capable of being a star." - Flair on the late Renegade Rick Wilson, who held the WCW Television championship.

"David didn’t say a word. He took it like a man. You had Curt Hennig and Barry Windham, two of the best performers during their primes, and they bounced around for every one of David’s moves. My son couldn’t do anything, and they made him look like a star. And then there was Hogan – with all his experience, and all his celebrity – trying to be cute. He whipped David like a dog. It was sickening, and I’ll never forgive him for it." - Flair on Hulk Hogan taking liberties on David Flair during a Nitro angle, whipping him 15-20 times instead of the discussed 3-4 lashes with a belt.

"There’s a difference between being a great performer and being a guy – like Brutus Beefcake or the Ultimate Warrior – who became famous because he happened to be working for Vince. It’s the same with Foley. When he hasn’t been working for Vince, there has been no demand for him whatsoever. He’s just another guy." -Flair on Mick Foley

Considering how nasty the injury looked, the fact he can walk normally is amazing. Former WWF and WCW World champion Sid Vicious wrestled his first match in over three years on June 12th at the Internet Wrestling Syndicate's fifth anniversary show in Montreal, Quebec. Vicious teamed with three-time former WWF tag team champion Pierre Carl Ouelette to win a ten-team tag battle royal. Sid & Ouelette won the match at the end using the Quebecers' old cannonball off the top rope finisher, where Vicious stood underneath Ouelette and helped launch him onto their opponent, Kurt Lauderdale. Sid's career was halted on January 14, 2001 in Indianapolis, IN at the WCW PPV Sin, when he suffered a horrific double compound fracture of his left leg jumping off the ropes during the main event. He only made one high-profile appearance in wrestling since then, as special enforcer for a Scott Steiner vs. Nathan Jones WWA title match in April 2002 in Melbourne, Australia. Sid walked with the aid of a cane at that event.  

Well, on the bright side, at least they ditched the President idea.  During an investor conference call on June 22nd, Linda McMahon put over the Diva Search as being similar to "American Idol" or "America's Top Model" and how they had high hopes for it to boost the ratings of Raw.  That didn't happen.  She also stated that to go alongside the real Presidential Election, WWE will have an election in November on both Raw and Smackdown to name a storyline "WWE President" to oversee both brands. Thankfully, that idea was dropped. 

Yeah, genius is often not appreciated, especially when it doesn't exist. Dominic Pagliaro resigned from his position on the WWE Creative Team. He was telling people at his last TV taping that he wasn’t “appreciated for his genius”, or words to that effect. He had recently had his periodic review with the company and was reportedly not given the raise that he thought he had earned. He had gained a reputation among many in the company as being a “video producer who had no idea what he was producing and didn’t understand the business”. Pagliaro had been a favorite of Stephanie McMahon’s for quite some time now but rubbed a lot of the talent the wrong way with what many felt was a disrespectful attitude towards them and the sacrifices that they make for their work. In fact, a few weeks before his departure. as the workers were about to embark on their European tour, Pagliaro was heard bragging about how he flies on the company plane. Given that the talent travels on normal flights and logs a lot of miles by car, it didn’t sit very well. So, no too many people were sorry to see him go.

Guess he isn't coming back anytime soon.  Despite hints being dropped by Jim Ross that Jeff Hardy would possibly be returning to WWE, the former WWE Tag Team Champion instead ended up signing to appear for NWA:TNA.  Reportedly there was contact between Hardy and WWE, but nothing came to fruition from the discussions, so he went with TNA. 

A sign of things to come.  Word came out of Ohio Valley Wrestling that Mark Magnus was going to be doing an "Arab" gimmick, and would be getting a new ring name.  Of course, that gimmick later arrived in WWE as Muhammad Hussan. 

And think, he had time to develop a weight loss system while doing all of this. Mike Bucci, who wrestles as Nova, was moved up to the role of Assistant booker in Ohio Valley Wrestling.  The plan was for Bucci to work under Cornette as a way to learn more about the creative process of the company, possibly as a way to groom him for the WWE creative team down the line. Bucci started handling the house shows and working under Cornette for TV.  Of course, he would instead end up becoming Simon Dean, and was moved to the Raw roster as a wrestler. 

He certainly isn't afraid to open his mouth. In what was meant to be a a phone call checking on his condition from Brian Stull, host of The Stranglehold radio show, TNA star Kid Kash shared that while he has indeed suffered a broken fibula, if this was ECW he would be more than willing to wrestle through the pain. Kash stated his frustration with TNA comes from only a select group of wrestlers being allowed to have merchandise such as T-shirts and videos, delays on receiving royalties on what promotional items have been made, and the basic salaries paid to the wrestlers. The big payouts to Lex Luger-types, the independent booking fee, and backstage politics were also mentioned by Kash--who has previously asked for his release from TNA.

Speaking of big payouts. Mike Tenay and Don West announced at the June 24th  NWA:TNA Impact! taping in Orlando, Florida that former NBA star Dennis Rodman would be coming into TNA. It would end up being a one time appearance, as Rodman didn't want to do anything, was not receptive to any ideas, and essentially did nothing for the promotion. 

Tragic incident.  IWA Puerto Rico wrestler Victor the Bodyguard died of a heart attack following a match at the IWA show in Yauco. Victor had been experiencing chest pains throughout the day. He wrestled a short match on the show where he pinned Miguel Perez. Then he was supposed to do something in the main event, a tag match with Rey Gonzalez & Hangman Hughes vs. Shane & Apolo. But he wasn't feeling well, so he left ringside and went to the back, where he had the heart attack. He died en route to the hospital. He was 39.

Maybe he knew the show would be horrible, so he wanted to stay at home. Vince McMahon was not at the Great American Bash PPV due a bad internal infection that he was suffering from. He was on some serious medication and thus could not come to the event, but was in touch with his management team all day via phone. The last PPV Vince missed was King Of The Ring 1994 due to neck surgery. The word going around backstage at the show was that Vince phoned in after the show and liked the PPV.  Some were joking that it had to be due the medication that he was on. In his absence, Stephanie McMahon pretty much ran the whole show. with Shane McMahon working with Guerrero and Layfield for the bullrope match as something of a defacto agent, Jim Ross supervising the announcing, Kevin Dunn overseeing TV, and HHH acting as a jack of all management trades.

See, because in the real world, anyone could survive being buried in concrete, right?  According to WWE, Paul Bearer character didn't "die" at the end of the Great American Bash Pay-per-view when he was buried in concrete. At Smackdown that week, Michael Cole claimed that Bearer suffered "major internal injuries" and would probably never return to wrestling. Amazingly, despite taping the angle early in the day, no one in WWE looked at the footage and felt the "burial" angle looked too ridiculous to air. 

At least she got a title run on the way out. Jacqueline (Jackie Moore, a.k.a. Jess McGrath's favorite wrestler ever, Miss Texas) was been let go by WWE. It turns out her last moment in the spotlight for WWE was as the Cruiserweight champion. Before that, she had mostly been working as a trainer down in OVW.

In hindsight, would this have been better than the miscarriage angle?  Word coming out of WWE was that they planned to have the Lita pregnancy angle run for the entire period that she should be pregnant, and culminate with her giving birth to Kane's child.

Page 6

For a comprehensive look at every news story, major event, television show and Pay-per-view, Elite Members can look at the PWInsider.com Weekly Newsletter archive, which has a detailed look at EVERYTHING in professional wrestling in North America in 2004.  To become an Elite Member, click here

For Mike Johnson's extensive look at Ring Of Honor in 2004, click here.


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